Tag Archive | camp memories

Wildlife at Tahquitz Meadows Part 2

More on Wildlife at Taquitz

Tahquitz ran year round. We had summer camp for kids and we had family winter camps. We had an Easter week camp and we had Outdoor Ed for a couple of schools during the school year. I did a lot of nature talks and walks and occasionally a Nature Ride.

One of the things I loved about working at camp was all the different animals that lived around camps. We always had a lot of gopher snakes around because they were attracted to all the mice because no matter no you tell kids no food they always manage to sneak some to hide. This is especially bad when you are working with kids that come from group foster homes. They feel the need to make sure they have something that is theirs and food often fits the bill since it’s portable and hideable until some critter decides it’s theirs.

I was always rescuing some poor gopher snake that had gotten penned somewhere by panicked children and I would take them out to the meadows and let them go but sometimes I’d keep one in a cage for a few days to try and get the kids to get to know snakes. There was one particularly docile one that I carried around in the front top pocket of my overalls. She liked to ride with her head sticking out of the pocket not unlike an Egyptian headpiece. She liked it there because it was nice and warm and safe from panicked children.

One of my favourite things to do was to walk into the Dining Lodge to give a talk with her riding head out in my pocket. I could clear that room in about 30 seconds flat and I would just stand there and pretty soon the heads would pop back in the door and the kids would return and they would start to ask questions about my passenger. City kids have a tendency to assume that all snakes are poisonous and evil so for me, someone they liked and trusted to stand there with a snake in my pocket and obviously not running around crazy had an impact on them. Soon they could gently touch the snake and stroke her smooth scales and we’d talk about how I knew she was a girl (egg slit) and what she ate and what she did for camp and what I was going to do with her. I’m hoping those kids stayed respectful of snakes when they left camp but I have no way of knowing.

One spring we had an Outdoor Ed camp and it snowed about 3 feet at camp. I have to admit that winter of off and on snow is why I can happily live in Southern California and never go near another place with snow. I don’t like being wet, frozen or cold. I went out early one morning to the Arts & Crafts building to get ready to make some candles and do some nature crafts and the snow was absolutely pristine. Nobody was up at that end of camp and it was quiet and mine were the only boot prints through the snow. I was going about my chores and set up when I heard the funny sounds that quail make and across the snow came Mommy and Daddy quail and about 15 tiny little quail all in a long line. Peeping as they went. It was totally enchanting and funny as hell when a pair of the babies fell into one of my boot prints and got stuck. There was a lot of agitated peeping but I knew they would get out and they eventually did. If they hadn’t my leaving the building would have done it. But they got out and left in their long line and it reminded me of a Madeline story of the little girls following the nuns.

Wildlife at Singing Pines part 1

Wildlife at Singing Pines Part 1

Of all the camps I worked at Singing Pines had the biggest variety of wildlife. According to the camp legend it was because an old Indian woman protected camp. A lot of us believed in her with all our hearts. I have good reason to believe, she touched my cheek once. Scared me into screaming and I had to apologize.

That camp has never burned because of her protection the heart of camp is always safe and there is always wildlife harboured there safely. We had a three legged fox and we had bears. We had giant raccoons that weighed around 45 pounds. We had grey squirrels and ground squirrels and field mice. We had a mountain lion that passed through, we had Audubon cottontails and we had rattlesnakes and gopher snakes and we had aquatic garter snakes in the lake. We had bats and we had several kinds of lizards. And we had birds, lots and lots of birds.

I was Arts & Crafts Director there for 4 years and for a couple of years I added the title Nature Director too. I had the Long House and the Nature Nook to work out of but I spent most of my time in the Long House above the Lake. I had a refrigerator that ran on propane that only worked the first year I was there after that it was a convenient place to store food away from critters so I didn’t always have to go all the way up to the Dining Hall. It was a long walk up that hill some days.

I had a lot of time along out there because there were so many other things to do in camp like horse back riding, canoeing and swimming that seemed to come before A&C unless I was making candles and tie-dye. I had no electricity and a limited budget so there were things I couldn’t do that I had done at other camps like enameling. I did have a propane stove for melting wax and heating dye. So we did a lot of that. And one year I added screening for a select few and the staff.

Some days I felt like Snow White in her cottage because the birds went freely in and out of my huge doors. Several times I looked down and a Scarlet Tanager would be hopping in to look up at me in my director’s chair with a cocked head. He always looked like he had a lot of questions he wanted to ask. The Stellar’s Jays were the biggest thieves and loved to steal things especially if some unit had a cook out there on my concrete porch/pad. I once saw one steal a whole cube of butter of the table.

The first thing I was ever warned about was to never build a fire during the day in my fireplace because the baby bats in the chimney might fall into the fire and the mama bats would dive down to get them.

I forgot this one cold day in my third year and luckily the baby did not fall into the fire but mama did come down to get it and put the baby on her chest. She flew up and hung on the wall looking at me very upset and I hurriedly put out the fire. Baby bats and their mamas are really cute. Mama is at the most about 4 inches long so the babies are really tiny. Anything that can eat 1000 mosquitoes in an hour I like a lot.

One night at twilight I had left something in the LH and had to go get it and the bats were just coming out for a night of eating and one poor bat smacked me in the forehead. I guess I was moving too quickly in the door for his sonar to track me. He looked as confused as I did and for the record, he did not get caught in my hair. He just bounced off my head.

One night the CIT’s were camping out in the outpost for a skill session and I had gone out there for dinner and went to get my guitar from the Long House for a sing along. In the fifteen minutes I was gone a mountain lion had gone up the road and I had just missed it. I know there were no tracks when I went to the LH and when I came back there were huge cat paw prints. Much as I love kitties that was one I could do without coming face to face with. I told the CIT Directors so they could keep the kids from going to the bathroom until campfire was over because I wanted to keep everyone in the unit until some time had passed. I don’t think we ever told the CITs. Those paw prints were as big as a large size paper plate. Really big kitty.

Camp spirits

Some friends spent the weekend at Bandito, the camp ground across from camp and I was thinking about the day I found out I was claimed. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s when I became a part of So Cal pagan community there seemed to be a lot more times to gather and there were several camping events that used to occur in our local mountains such as Pacific Circle and COA had a camping event and there were several small ones along with pagan festivals like Harvest Moon and FERALS monthly concerts and gatherings.

I was invited to one with the rest of the Pallas Society Board and Lorraine Covenant, two groups that sadly no longer exist, at least not in the LA area. There may be some form of Lorraine Covenant up in Seattle where the HP moved. Anyway a group run by the Crowley’s coven put on a campout that I was invited to and I jumped at the chance because it was across the road from my most beloved camp. What I didn’t count on was that the spirit of camp would claim ownership of me.

Our camp had a protective spirit known to the camp as the Old Squaw and yes, I know that isn’t a politically correct term but the camp had been founded in the 30’s and that was what she made herself known as to the first campers. I have since been told her real name in a dream and told to keep it close, so I will.

We told her story every session about her protective spirit and about how she saved Don Benito Wilson’s life when he was mauled by a bear. The same Wilson, Mt Wilson is named after about how he allegedly gifted her with the land. About how the trappers came in the early 1900’s and left again when they didn’t catch anything because she told the animals to go away. Camp still has a national historical monument in that log cabin and the trading post a hundred yards away that they had to abandon.

It’s amusing that they couldn’t catch anything because that canyon has more wildlife in per square inch of any camp I ever worked at. We had Mt lions, bears, fox, squirrels, ground squirrels, rabbits, bob cats, mice, kangaroo rats, bats, mule deer and raccoons and those are just the ones I remember seeing.

For two years after we stopped working there we had rituals after camp was over for the summer to honour her because the new camp director wouldn’t allow her story to be told so we organized a campout to honour and tell her story. The 2 years they wouldn’t allow the story we heard from the staff that all kinds of things went wrong and that the summer was just not as easy as it had been before. So a some of the old staff and friends and our HP and group went up and I told her story. At one of those she actually appeared behind me in while I was telling. I still remember my partner at the time’s white face as she pointed behind me. This person was not prone to believing in ghosts let alone seeing one normally only heard of in tales so that was pretty amusing but my first realization was when she touched me.

A cold hand stroked my face like a mother or fond relative does and I about jumped out of my skin and I have to admit I squealed until I figured out what it was and the people pointing behind me and babbling that she was standing there. I apologized and went on with her story very conscious of my audience corporeal and non-corporeal. I think that also may be the last time I did a non-reading storytelling too. (Since I was the only one standing on that side of the campfire I knew there wasn’t anyone there.

When I worked there I would sit out in my Arts and Crafts lodge and the door would open on one side and then a few moments later the door on the other side would open and close and there was never any wind when this occurred and I used to greet her just as I would anyone else coming there to visit. There were cold spots in camp as you were walking around in the dark that there were no explainable reason for. It would be normal temp a few feet away and it almost always happened on the road at least for me. And except for the summer we had Peter Pervert spying on us the camp always felt unusually safe.

Anyway, a few years later I was attending the campout and was about to attend the Circle for the evening when I started to get the feeling that I shouldn’t go but I couldn’t figure out why I should feel that way. (Sometimes I can be really dense.) I put myself in the East because that was where I almost always stood in the Circle when I was new and felt comfortable there when I felt the hard compulsion to leave right as the Circle was starting to be cast. I looked at my HP and shook my head and excused myself.

I started walking away and felt like I was being pushed and pushed hard away from the ritual. I was being pushed to the stream that ran through the campground. The next thing I knew I was rolling down the bank and into the water and the words, “You are mine and you will not do that here!” rang in my head.

It was clear that I was still on HER land and she wasn’t having any of me attending a Circle not dedicated to her. I belonged to Her and she was really clear about it. She seemed to think rolling in the water and mud a fitting thing.

It also may have been a reference to something I had done before I left camp my last summer and at the time I wasn’t a practicing pagan and would have not known what that was but I went on my last night to the stream that ran into our lake and washed myself in the cold water of the stream and wished the camp and land goodbye and I’ve never told anyone I did that before. I made sure I wet my hands and feet and heart and head and at the time it felt right. So think the roll into the stream was a reminder of whose I was and what I had done.

Somehow it was clear that anytime I was on her land or near it I was hers and I was not to forget that ever!

The Celts were known having local goddesses and gods that were not known out of the areas they protected and now I know that they aren’t the only ones that had that relationship with the spirits of their lands. And I know who I belong to.

Teresita Girls Part 1

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I’m terribly sleepy with cracked lips due to stupidity from forgetting my lip balm and insanely happy and at peace. I also have slightly blue hands because I did some tie-dye. I never do it for myself but D asked me so I did it. This was the camp reunion for the Catholic girls camp I worked for many eons ago before the ice age and I was the Arts and Crafts Director there. I’ve never been able to use gloves. I hate them. The only thing I have ever used gloves for was acid etching in glass work but for tie-dye or candlemaking or anything else I have never used gloves. I won’t even use them for gardening. I need to feel and be in touch with what I’m doing. It’s like wearing earmuffs and trying to perform music. I feel too removed from the process with gloves. This used to lead every summer to having what I used to call my asbestos hands because I used hot Rit dues and hot candlewax for dipping and pouring. You combine this with several times a day of playing a steel string guitar and you have a set of very calloused mitts. So I’m blue in the hands but no where else.

It was lovely to be up with old friends and campers and new friends that were staff other years. Some people had been there since Wednesday, we couldn’t go up until Friday morning. Glad I remembered my cane because the mountain has been cranked up since last year, at least that was what it felt like. According the scale in the cafeteria at work I lost 6 lbs on those mountains.

The long time camp maintenance man died this summer so we had a memorial and dedicated a tree to him Friday night. I will always be grateful to Mr Ken because in a story that is now funny but it wasn’t at the time. I was the non-Catholic in camp. They thought I was Protestant but I was reading through the book my first HP had given me Positive Magic. Anyway, I was almost always excused from attending Mass on Sunday afternoon when the priest came. So I decided on Sunday I was going to take a nice hot shower. Arts and Crafts and the Convent shared a shower that used to hang over the San Andreas fault and I was always afraid of going over the side in an earthquake naked but I should have been worried about other hazards. I undressed and got in and took a nice hot shower, something that was a real luxury and was nicely clean. The tiny building just contained the shower stall and a very tiny dressing area. I pulled the shower curtain back and was about to step out when I noticed a friend (?) had entered the shower after me. There was a rattlesnake coiled up on the dressing area floor. Now, I’m not afraid of snakes at all but when confronted naked as a jaybird in the shower when as far as I knew every one was in Chapel at Mass is a bit scary. Because he was coiled he could easily reach me in the shower stall. I managed to grab my towel from a hook and leaned over far enough to get the door open so I could see out by pushing it with my toe and waited. Luckily, after about 15 very long minutes hoping that the rattlesnake would not find me as the warm body closest to him, Mr Ken and Mr Mike (his assistant) went by on the road on the way to the tool shack. Mr Ken was very devout but for some reason he wasn’t in Chapel probably because if everyone was in Chapel, he could get something done.

I got their attention and of course, it was kind of funny to them, they weren’t in the shower starkers with the snake but they did get a shovel and take care of the naughty thing and I got dressed. Now I know it must have looked really funny but at the time it certainly wasn’t and if he hadn’t come along I don’t know what I would have done because I think I was the only one in camp with snake killing experience because they always called Mr Ken to do it. I am eternally grateful I did not end up the naked counselor dead in the shower like some camp horror story to scare small children with around the campfire.

Plague!

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-plague-squirrel-20130725,0,3215912.story

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My camp friends are cracking up about this. They are making an enormous deal over something that happens just about every year because someone is dumb enough to report it. Plague is endemic to the L.A. Mountains. We almost got closed one summer because we reported it to the Health Dept and the other camps on the hill including a LA County camp did not.

Yes, our ground squirrels had the plague, this led to all kinds of crazy things happening including the need to hide camp.

It started out like any other summer and then we started finding dead squirrels. Being good little Girl Scouts we reported this to the County Health Dept. Soon the camp was invaded by men in funny suits looking for squirrel holes and trapping live squirrels and my Arts and Crafts Lodge converted into a plague lab. I was treated to men grabbing trapped squirrels and holding them by the tail while they combed them looking for fleas and then testing them for plague. They had to live trap them because dead squirrels don’t have fleas. Fleas are smart enough to abandon ship. And they tested positive for plague. Next we were invaded by the Chilao Hot Shot crew who got the lovely duty of finding and spraying all the squirrel holes with flea powder. All while children were in camp.

Somehow this ended up on the news and one of the news stations decided they were going to do some yellow journalism. “GIRL SCOUT CAMP HAS PLAGUE!” now it just so happened that this was the summer the movie Meatballs had come out and three of us had watched it on our day off. There is a part of the movie where they hide the camp. And word came up to not let the news people into camp. Teddy, Phrog and KaTao with bright idea grab some other staff and go to hide camp.

We headed up the road with a few axes and proceeded to cut brush and drag it in front of the gate and move rocks and generally make it look abandoned. We had to chop the camp sign down because the bolts had been painted over. Instant invisible camp, from Cumorah Crest to Christian camp was a deserted road with no Singing Pines.

Only one problem with this, the council arranged with the CBS local news to do a feature on how safe camp was and we had to frantically unhide the camp. Back up the road the next morning to try and put the sign up and drag all the brush and rocks back. So we had a happy day on the news showing the camp nurse talking about it. The head of the Health Dept saying it was safe and they’d send their kid. They showed the horses and the pool and several of us leading songs and girls having a fun time.

This led to many song parodies such as:

“Dead Squirrel, dead squirrel

Swish your stiffened tail

Dead Squirrel, dead squirrel

Swish your stiffened tail

See the fleas crawl in and out

It’s the plague I have no doubt

Dead Squirrel, dead squirrel

Swish your stiffened tail”

This lovely song was by Stanley but there were others including one by yours truly:

“I’ve got and dead grey squirrel in the shower house

I’ve also got a dead grey mouse

With my two dead friends I have to say

I’m so sorry they can’t play

Tears are many and laughs are few

‘Cause there’s nothing I can do

With my two dead friends in the shower house

One dead squirrel and one dead mouse.”

To the tune of Red Balloon.

I also took the plaque signs they posted all over camp, like we could forget, and silk screened on the back of our yellow camp staff shirts for posterity.

So you see why we laugh. Unless you sleep over a ground squirrel hole or decide to play with dead squirrels there is very little chance of getting the plague.

The California Boogie Man

If you grow up in California and in particular in Southern California there is a boogie man that is always there, the San Andreas Fault. From the time you are very small when people talk about earthquakes they are talking about the San Andreas and the “what ifs”. It doesn’t seem to matter that none of the damaging earthquakes that have hit Southern Cal in my life time are the fault of the San Andreas Fault. It is the one they talk about.

It is a bad boy, it has caused the 1906 San Francisco quake and the 1989 Loma Prieta but it hasn’t rocked the boat down here. Most of the time it’s faults like the Whittier Fault or the previously unknown Northridge fault that have caused big quakes but it really doesn’t matter the boogie man is the San Andreas.

So imagine how delighted I was when I went to work at Teresita smack on the San Andreas. It was literally right out the door of my Arts and Crafts building and straight down into several hundred precarious feet. I had nightmares those 2 summers about being out in A&C with the kids and having the building fall in. And to make it even more fun the staff shower hung out over the fault. I was very glad to notice this weekend that particular tiny building was no longer there. Especially since I had had a really bad adventure in that tiny building. It was just a shower stall and a tiny changing area I doubt if it was more than 5 ft wide and 10 ft long, maybe not even that big but it had hot water which was a big luxury in any camp.

One day during mass which I was usually excused from as a non-Catholic I decided it was a prime time to get some shower privacy. I gathered all my things and trotted across the one lane camp road to luxuriate briefly, (there is always a water shortage in CA) in the hot water and quiet of the shower. I got undressed and enjoyed my shower and had turned off the water when I heard a noise and saw the other camp boogie man, a rattlesnake. So I’m stark naked and everyone is in the Chapel down the hill and over a ways. This is not a good feeling. I finally got up the nerve to grab a towel from the peg it was on and retreated back into the shower portion. I was very glad when after several minutes of terror the camp maintenance man and his helper headed to where the tools were kept across the road.

By this time I had given up all pretense to modesty and just wanted that snake away from my bare self. I’m not afraid of snakes at all unless I am starkers in the shower. I can only wonder if because I had been the author of many a snakes demise that this was my Karma coming to haunt me in the worst kind of way. You think about these things when you are trapped stark naked with a rattlesnake. And you wonder how the hell to protect your toes.

But the Maintenance guys got shovels and took care of the invader and I retrieved my clothes and beat it back to A&C. I don’t think I ever took a shower there again. It was a bad episode of Fear Factor.

So this weekend it was kind of fun to finally take pictures of the boogie man and see that it wasn’t so scary anymore. It will still wreck havoc when it finally goes and make a royal mess of the landscape and of human creation but at least I didn’t have any nightmares about falling into it and we were in almost the last cabin before it drops straight down.

The night we saw the UFO

When I worked at Tahquitz Meadow I was still of the age (20 or 21) where I could try to stay up all night and be able to function the next day. Our camp was up at Mountain Center, a tiny village next to a bigger village called Idyllwild in the mountains above Hemet. In those days I didn’t drive or have a car so I spent most of my days off in camp or exploring the area. Hemet is at 1594 ft of elevation just across from where March Air Force base was and Idyllwild and Mountain Center are at 6065 ft above sea level. This makes for big temperature differences and climate even though they are fairly close together in distance.

S and I had a 2/4 that started at noon which is a 24 day off to those who don’t work at summer camps and after spending the day in Idyllwild and wandering aimlessly after shopping for junk food in the only small market, we decided we were going to stay up all night and play our guitars and watch the shooting stars fall and we figured we could sleep in, in the morning.

Most things went according to plan and around 3 am after our feasts of Cheese Puffs and Coke, we were sitting leaning against rocks in one of the big meadows in camp. We were facing Tahquitz Peak and looking for the fabled blue light that supposedly is a symbol of Tahquitz’s ghost when we saw something in the north end of the far meadow. It had to have been not too far outside the boundaries of the camp property which was just National Forest land and just wilderness there. We started seeing a bright light swing back and forth in an inverted arc. There was no noise. All we could hear were sleepy animal sounds and crickets.

The light looked to be about a mile to 2 miles away and just at the level of the tops of the pines and it was swinging like a pendulum. So it looked to us to be about 50 ft off the ground more or less. We started to get a little freaked out and since we were the only ones up in camp there was no one to go tell. This went on for about a half an hour when we finally got spooked enough to run to the staff bunks and go to bed.

The next morning we told the camp manager and the camp director who both told us we were probably seeing something natural like a shooting star. So we dropped it but we knew what we had seen and it wasn’t any shooting star. They don’t swing and they don’t levitate 50 ft off the ground. We told our fellow staff who just thought we had been drinking. Since neither of us drank very often if ever at that point we were more than frustrated but dropped it.

Our camp was long and flat for the most part but there was a sharp abrupt uphill at the north end of camp behind the last big cabin. It was really just a collection of meadows below the peak.

About 3 days after our shared “hallucination” I was working in the trading post doing some organizing and serving small children “suicides” (A particularly vile drink made of equal parts, Pepsi, orange drink, Bubble Up and Dr Pepper. It was very popular. Blech!) We started to hear a low rumble and then a roar and then it was so loud your ears hurt and we all ran outside to see what it was. It was two fighter jets out of March Air Force Base coming in at tree level. Those pilots just barely cleared the top of that incline at the end of camp and it scared the bejebus out of everyone in camp. It was low enough to see the bolts in the underside of the plane and to see the pilot clearly.

The Staff all ran to the Camp Office to find our boss already on the phone with the base and trying to get to the Base Commander to complain. The horses and barnyard animals were having fits not to mention small children. She finally after much yelling got the Commander who denied it had happened and that no pilots were in the area. She kept yelling at him that we had good evidence to the contrary and he finally told her that the only reason they would even be in that area was to check out credible reports of a UFO. At that point she started to stare at S and I and we had no clue why. She got off the phone with the Commander and told us what he had said.

At least, they finally believed us and we had to tell what we had seen again because now they were ready to hear it.

To this day, I don’t know what we saw. Someone said a helicopter but helicopters don’t swing like pendulums and marijuana growers hadn’t really started to farm the forest at that point. And that area is a really rough piece of ground. I know we saw something and I know it scared us out of our shorts and neither of us spooked easily but we sure saw something.

Spirits of place

I was thinking about the day I found out I was claimed. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s when I became a part of So Cal pagan community there seemed to be a lot more times to gather and there were several camping events that used to occur in our local mountains such as Pacific Circle and COA had a camping event and there were several small ones along with pagan festivals like Harvest Moon and FERALS monthly concerts and gatherings.

I was invited to one with the rest of the Pallas Society Board and Lorraine Covenant, two groups that sadly no longer exist, at least not in the LA area. There may be some form of Lorraine Covenant up in Seattle where the HP moved. Anyway a group run by the Crowleys coven put on a campout that I was invited to and I jumped at the chance because it was across the road from my most beloved camp. What I didn’t count on was that the spirit of camp would claim ownership of me.

Our camp had a protective spirit known to the camp as the Old Squaw and yes, I know that isn’t a politically correct term but the camp had been founded in the 30’s and that was what she made herself known as to the first campers. I have since been told her real name in a dream and told to keep it close, so I will.

We told her story every session about her protective spirit and about how she saved Don Benito Wilson’s life when he was mauled by a bear. The same Wilson, Mt Wilson is named after about how he allegedly gifted her with the land. About how the trappers came in the early 1900’s and left again when they didn’t catch anything because she told the animals to go away. Camp still has a national historical monument in that log cabin and the trading post a hundred yards away that they had to abandon.

It’s amusing that they couldn’t catch anything because that canyon has more wildlife in per square inch of any camp I ever worked at. We had Mt lions, bears, fox, squirrels, ground squirrels, rabbits, bob cats, mice, kangaroo rats, bats, mule deer and raccoons and those are just the ones I remember seeing.

For two years after we stopped working there we had rituals after camp was over for the summer to honour her because the new camp director wouldn’t allow her story to be told so we organized a campout to honour and tell her story. The 2 years they wouldn’t allow the story we heard from the staff that all kinds of things went wrong and that the summer was just not as easy as it had been before. So a some of the old staff and friends and our HP and group went up and I told her story. At one of those she actually appeared behind me in while I was telling. I still remember my partner at the times white face as she pointed behind me. This person was not prone to believing in ghosts let alone seeing one normally only heard of in tales so that was pretty amusing but my first realization was when she touched me.

A cold hand stroked my face like a mother or fond relative does and I about jumped out of my skin and I have to admit I squealed until I figured out what it was and the people pointing behind me and babbling that she was standing there. I apologized and went on with her story very conscious of my audience corporeal and non-corporeal. I think that also may be the last time I did a non-reading storytelling too. (Since I was the only one standing on that side of the campfire I knew it wasn’t any one there.

When I worked there I would sit out in my Arts and Crafts lodge and the door would open on one side and then a few moments later the door on the other side would open and close and there was never any wind when this occurred and I used to greet her just as I would anyone else coming there to visit. There were cold spots in camp as you were walking around in the dark that there were no explainable reason for. It would be normal temp a few feet away and it almost always happened on the road at least for me. And except for the summer we had Peter Pervert spying on us the camp always felt unusually safe.

Anyway, a few years later I was attending the campout and was about to attend the Circle for the evening when I started to get the feeling that I shouldn’t go but I couldn’t figure out why I should feel that way. (Sometimes I can be really dense.) I put myself in the East because that was where I almost always stood in the Circle when I was new and felt comfortable there when I felt the hard compulsion to leave right as the Circle was starting to be cast. I looked at my HP and shook my head and excused myself.

I started walking away and felt like I was being pushed and pushed hard away from the ritual. I was being pushed to the stream that ran through the campground. The next thing I knew I was rolling down the bank and into the water and the words, “You are mine and you will not do that here!” rang in my head.

It was clear that I was still on HER land and she wasn’t having any of me attending a Circle not dedicated to her. I belonged to Her and she was really clear about it. She seemed to think rolling in the water and mud a fitting thing.

It also may have been a reference to something I had done before I left camp my last summer and at the time I wasn’t a practicing pagan and would have not known what that was but I went on my last night to the stream that ran into our lake and washed myself in the cold water of the stream and wished the camp and land goodbye and I’ve never told anyone I did that before. I made sure I wet my hands and feet and heart and head and at the time it felt right. So think the roll into the stream was a reminder of whose I was and what I had done.

Somehow it was clear that anytime I was on her land or near it I was hers and I was not to forget that ever!

The Celts were known having local goddesses and gods that were not known out of the areas they protected and now I know that they aren’t the only ones that had that relationship with the spirits of their lands. And I know who I belong to.

Wildlife at Singing Pines

Wildlife at Singing Pines Part 1

Of all the camps I worked at Singing Pines had the biggest variety of wildlife. According to the camp legend it was because an old Indian woman protected camp. A lot of us believed in her with all our hearts. I have good reason to believe, she touched my cheek once. Scared me into screaming and I had to apologize.

That camp has never burned because of her protection the heart of camp is always safe and there is always wildlife harboured there safely. We had a three legged fox and we had bears. We had giant raccoons that weighed around 45 pounds. We had grey squirrels and ground squirrels and field mice. We had a mountain lion that passed through we had Audubon cottontails and we had rattlesnakes and gopher snakes and we had aquatic garter snakes in the lake. We had bats and we had several kinds of lizards. And we had birds, lots and lots of birds.

I was Arts & Crafts Director there for 4 years and for a couple of years I added the title Nature Director too. I had the Long House and the Nature Nook to work out of but I spent most of my time in the Long House above the Lake. I had a refrigerator that ran on propane that only worked the first year I was there after that it was a convenient place to store food away from critters so I didn’t always have to go all the way up to the Dining Hall. It was a long walk up that hill some days.

I had a lot of time along out there because there were so many other things to do in camp like horse back riding, canoeing and swimming that seemed to come before A&C unless I was making candles and tie-dye. I had no electricity and a limited budget so there were things I couldn’t do that I had done at other camps like enameling. I did have a propane stove for melting wax and heating dye. So we did a lot of that. And one year I added screening for a select few and the staff.

Some days I felt like Snow White in her cottage because the birds went freely in and out of my huge doors. Several times I looked down and a Scarlet Tanager would be hopping in to look up at me in my director’s chair with a cocked head. He always looked like he had a lot of questions he wanted to ask. The Stellar’s Jays were the biggest thieves and loved to steal things especially if some unit had a cook out there on my concrete porch/pad. I once saw one steal a whole cube of butter of the table.

The first thing I was ever warned about was to never build a fire during the day in my fireplace because the baby bats in the chimney might fall into the fire and the mama bats would dive down to get them.

I forgot this one cold day in my third year and luckily the baby did not fall into the fire but mama did come down to get it and put the baby on her chest. She flew up and hung on the wall looking at me very upset and I hurriedly put out the fire. Baby bats and their mamas are really cute. Mama is at the most about 4 inches long so the babies are really tiny. Anything that can eat 1000 mosquitoes in an hour I like a lot.

One night at twilight I had left something in the LH and had to go get it and the bats were just coming out for a night of eating and one poor bats smacked me in the forehead. I guess I was moving too quickly in the door for his sonar to track me. He looked as confused as I did and for the record, he did not get caught in my hair. He just bounced off my head.

One night the CIT’s were camping out in the outpost for a skill session and I had gone out there for dinner and went to get my guitar for a sing along. In the fifteen minutes I was gone a mountain lion had gone up the road and I had just missed it. I know there were no tracks when I went to the LH and when I came back there were huge cat paw prints. Much as I love kitties that was one I could do without coming face to face with. I told the CIT Directors so they could keep the kids from going to the bathroom until campfire was over because I wanted to keep everyone in the unit until some time had passed. I don’t think we ever told the CITs. Those paw prints were as big as a large size paper plate. Really big kitty.

More Wildlife stories from Tahquitz

More on Wildlife at Taquitz

Tahquitz ran year round. We had summer camp for kids and we had family winter camps. We had an Easter week camp and we had Outdoor Ed for a couple of schools during the school year. I did a lot of nature talks and walks and occasionally a Nature Ride.

One of the things I loved about working at camp was all the different animals that lived around camps. We always had a lot of gopher snakes around because they were attracted to all the mice because no matter no you tell kids no food they always manage to sneak some to hide. This is especially bad when you are working with kids that come from group foster homes. They feel the need to make sure they have something that is theirs and food often fits the bill since it’s portable and hideable until some critter decides it’s theirs.

I was always rescuing some poor gopher that had gotten penned somewhere by panicked children and I would take them out to the meadows and let them go but sometimes I’d keep one in a cage for a few days to try and get the kids to get to know snakes. There was one particularly docile one that I carried around in the front top pocket of my overalls. She liked to ride with her head sticking out of the pocket not unlike an Egyptian headpiece. She liked it there because it was nice and warm and safe from panicked children.

One of my favourite things to do was to walk into the Dining Lodge to give a talk with her riding head out in my pocket. I could clear that room in about 30 seconds flat and I would just stand there and pretty soon the heads would pop back in the door and the kids would return and they would start to ask questions about my passenger. City kids have a tendency to assume that all snakes are poisonous and evil so for me, someone they liked and trusted to stand there with a snake in my pocket and obviously not running around crazy had an impact on them. Soon they could gently touch the snake and stroke her smooth scales and we’d talk about how I knew she was a girl (egg slit) and what she ate and what she did for camp and what I was going to do with her. I’m hoping those kids stayed respectful of snakes when they left camp but I have no way of knowing.

One spring we had an Outdoor Ed camp and it snowed about 3 feet at camp. I have to admit that winter of off and snow is why I can happily live in Southern California and never go near another place with snow. I don’t like being wet, frozen or cold. I went out early one morning to the Arts & Crafts building to get ready to make some candles and do some nature crafts and the snow was absolutely pristine. Nobody was up at that end of camp and it was quiet and mine were the only boot prints through the snow. I was going about my chores and set up when I heard the funny sounds that quail make and across the snow came Mommy and Daddy quail and about 15 tiny little quail all in a long line. Peeping as they went. It was totally enchanting and funny as hell when a pair of the babies fell into one of my boot prints and got stuck. There was a lot of agitated peeping but I knew they would get out and they eventually did. If they hadn’t my leaving the building would have done it. But they got out and left in their long line and it reminded me of a Madeline story of the little girls following the nuns.